(for Rona, Jeremy, Sam & Grace)
by Craig Raine
All the lizards are asleep--
perched pagodas with tiny triangular tiles,
each milky lid a steamed-up window.
Inside, the heart repeats itself like a sleepy gong,
summoning nothing to nothing.
In winter time, the zoo reverts to metaphor,
God's poetry of boredom:
the cobra knits her Fair-Isle skin,
rattlers titter over the same joke.
All of them endlessly finish spaghetti.
The python runs down like a spring,
and time stops on some ancient Sabbath.
Pythagorean bees are shut inside the hive,
which hymns and hums like Sunday chapel--
drowsy thoughts in a wrinkled brain.
The fire's gone out--
crocodiles lie like wet beams,
cross-hatched by flames that no one can remember.
Grasshoppers shiver, chafe their limbs
and try to keep warm,
crouching on their marks perpetually.
The African cricket is trussed like a cold chicken:
the sneeze of movement returns it to the same position,
in the same body. There is no change.
The rumple-headed lion has nowhere to go
and snoozes in his grimy combinations.
A chaise lounge with missing castors,
the walrus is stuck forever on his rock.
Sleepily, the seals play crib,
scoring on their upper lips.
The chimps kill fleas and time,
sewing nothing to nothing
Vultures in their shabby Sunday suits
fidget with broken umbrellas,
while the ape beats his breast
and yodels out repentance.
Their feet are an awful dream of bunions--
but the buffalo's brazil nut bugle-horns
can never sound reveille.